A brief look back at our 2012 camping trips

This week my wife and I have our first trip of 2013. As we are preparing, I thought it would be fun to recap the trips we had last year. In the coming weeks I will be writing reviews of some of the campgrounds and attractions we saw, so stay tuned!

April 20-22. (2 nights) For our first trip out we spent two nights at Pinckney State Recreation Area in the Michigan State Park system. Like this year, our first trip was one close by so we could work out any issues with our equipment, and make any necessary fixes or tweaks. On this trip we had another family join us for the day. We got to enjoy their company while we shook off the winter. It was a bit rainy, and the overnight low was 34 degrees, but we still had a great time.

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Enjoying a hike in Nelson’s Ledges.

May 18-20. (2 nights). On this one we camped at Heritage Hills Family Campground in Thompson, Ohio. My wife’s parents joined us for dinner on Friday night, and we attended a birthday party for my sister on Saturday. In between we explored Nelson’s Ledges. By this time the weather had completely broken to summer, with temperatures in the upper 70s and low 80s.

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My wife photographing flowers in the dunes near Ludington State Park

June 1-3. (2 nights). Ludington State Park is one of our favorite places to camp. On this trip we included a 3 mile hike to Big Sable Point Lighthouse and back. It was brisk that weekend, with temperatures in the 50s, and some threatening skies, but we managed to have a great time. On the last day we discovered another set of trails that were idyllic for a photography hike, and plan to return sometime soon.

June 27-30 (3 nights). Annually, I like to take a trip by myself. It lets me clear my head, and get centered. For 2012 that trip was to the Muskegon, Michigan KOA. I used that as a base to visit a few places along Lake Michigan, including the Gerald Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, and Charles Mears State Park in Pentwater, Michigan. This particular week, temperatures at home crested 100 degrees. Where I was camping it was in the mid 80s and delightful.

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MY camper from across the lake at the Muskegon KOA

June 30 – July 9 (8 nights). HOOTENANNY 2012! Annually we take a multi-family vacation in Cadillac, Michigan. In 2012 we celebrated my youngest son’s birthday in style, while enjoying the company of 16 close friends and family members. The weather was perfect, the food was incredible, and the company was unmatched. All in all a perfect vacation.

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Kissing the bricks at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

July 26-30 (3 nights). In 2012 I celebrated my 50th birthday. My gift from my wife was a trip to the Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. My son and I camped on what was essentially a gravel parking lot. Our small pop up camper was in with the giant, air-conditioned motor coaches. I have never been hot in my camper for sleeping until that trip. Despite that, and some torrential rains, we had an amazing time. We watched 3 races, kissed the bricks and had some father-son bonding on the long drive there and back. One for the books!

August 18-20 (2 nights). This was the first leg of the summer vacation that my wife and I took to Northern Michigan. We started with two nights at the Higgins Lake KOA. From there we visited the Civilian Conservation Corps Museum, and Hartwick Pines. KOA camping is very fun and comfortable for families. They offer a variety of activities for children, and their staff is always friendly and helpful. We will definitely do more KOA camping in the future, and this site is on our return list.

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Grand Traverse Lighthouse in Leelenau State Park

August 20-22 (2nights). My wife has wanted to do more primitive camping since we bought the camper. For this trip we stayed at Leelanau State Park at the tip of the Leelanau peninsula. From there we explored the entire peninsula, and got somewhat back to the basics of camping. With no running water or electricity, we had to use more of the facilities and capabilities of our camper, and rely on our experience. We had a fantastic time and saw some incredible stars from the comfort of our campsite.

August 21-26 (4 nights). The last leg of our vacation was spent on the shore of Lake Charlevoix in Young State Park near Boyne City, Michigan. This is Ernest Hemmingway country, and we spent time visiting some of his favorite haunts. The highlight of our time at this site was our “do nothing” day. When my wife and I camp, we usually have a full slate of sites and activities we want to visit and do while there. Sometimes, though, you just need a day to do nothing. Our last day at Young State Park was that day for 2012. I spent the majority of the day chasing the shade as I read a book, drank some coffee and napped to the sound of children playing.

September 21-23 (2 nights). Our last trip of the season was a 3-family outing to Hayes State Park in the Irish Hills of Michigan. We thoroughly enjoyed spending some of the last days of summer with friends. The campfires were fun, the food was amazing thanks to all the great cooks on site, and we had fun exploring the woods with children.

So, those are the big hitters from 2012. I spent a total of 30 nights in my camper, while my wife spent 21. For each of us it was the most nights camping in many years. In the coming weeks I will be giving more details on some of the places we visited, some of the things we learned, and some of the mistakes we made.

As I look forward to the new season, I am filled with excitement and anticipation. I was lamenting the other day that the weather forecast for this coming weekend isn’t stellar. Today I pulled out the camping log and reminded myself that it isn’t about the weather. It is about being out, enjoying the company of family and friends, and rekindling my inner spirit.

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